Directed by Gil Kenan.
Starring Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett and Kennedi Clements.
A family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come together to rescue their youngest daughter after the apparitions take her captive.
Just a heads up, there is not much positive to say about this contemporary reboot of the 1982 horror classic Poltergeist. That statement is also made judging this new version on its own merits, as I have not seen the original in years and don’t really remember much outside of the core story.
Poltergeist commits the same sins of most modern mainstream horror films, although not as obnoxiously. Similar to most paranormal invasion movies (including the original) there is a suburban family relocating to a new house, and as usual most characters within that family will get on your nerves having you wish the worst on them rather than escaping alive. There is the worried mother, whiny spoiled teenage daughter, shy and frightened son, the innocent and pure young daughter with the gift to communicate with ghosts, and the father played by Sam Rockwell who never shuts up.
None of these actors bring anything to the table that would make viewers care about them for even a second, which is paramount to a horror film in the vein of Poltergeist. We should want to see this terrorized family overcome the odds and bring their daughter back from the spiritual plane, but the first 20 minutes of the movie doesn’t give them the depth required to make them likable. They are the paper-thin, cardboard cutout characters you see in every horror movie. The acting is also exceptionally poor, even from the often underrated Sam Rockwell who delivers the most insincere and awkward “I just want my daughter back”line in quite some time.
It doesn’t help that pretty much everyone in Poltergeist is unbelievably stupid. Characters investigate danger further when it’s clear that something isn’t right and that they should probably leave the room. What’s that? You tried to drill a hole in the wall and nearly got your face pulled into a gigantic hole that an evil spirit caused? Well you better make sure you reach into that hole and grab that power drill back, because clearly that is the appropriate action to take under distress from pissed off ghosts.
Poltergeist also decides to bring in a pair of paranormal investigators to help aid the rescue mission and cleansing of the house, but then adds an unnecessary romance subplot about a failed marriage that is impossible to care about. So much is wrong with this movie from poorly written characters that it cannot make up for the welcome surprise of the film moving at a very fast pace.
Taking place over the course of only a couple of days, Poltergeist attempts to keep the audience on edge as soon as the ghosts arrive. Nothing in the movie is particularly scary (a collection of clowns in an attic isn’t frightening, it just makes me wonder what kind of weirdos previously lived in the house) and does unfortunately rely on the overly common trend of jump scares. There is also a heavy reliance on CGI when we are taken to the other plane of existence, and while admittedly from a visionary standpoint seeing these lost souls bound to the walls reaching out is neat, the special effects look very cheap and fake.
As far as predictability goes, the movie has an extremely telegraphed plot point that you can see coming from a mile away. It is one of those moments where you are just finally glad it happened because the actors, writer, and director weren’t fooling anyone. On the other side of the coin the movie does have a devilishly constructed fake-out ending, leaving you prepared to dump your popcorn and leave until once again, the family is pulled straight back into peril.
Poltergeist is extremely dumb with characters whose life holds no importance to the viewer, but at the very least it never stops trying to conjure up some scares once the gears are set in motion. That alone puts it one rung above some recent horror films of late (The Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death put me to sleep). The Poltergeist remake doesn’t taint the original, but the bigger problem is that isn’t a very good movie.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook